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Improvisation: I've been making it up as I go along


As you read through these blogs, I'm sure you can tell this about me: I have complex feelings on almost everything. I've been dancing for long enough to have tried most things and have a strong opinion about it.


Improvisation is one of those things. My first dance teacher was an "improv only" teacher for solo work, so I spent years never choreographing and thinking dancers who did choreograph as less "real". But I would watch those dancers and see how much stronger their shows were. It was a big blow to my over-inflated ego.


Then I began to choreograph, and said "the only way to have a consistent show is to use choreography." I struggled under the feeling of failure if I finished a show and I didn't do exactly what I wrote down. My practice sessions became memorization tests instead of a time I looked forward to.


In both methods I was missing the biggest key to my own success. Music was the thing my talent was applied to, instead of the loving partner who creates with me. As I began to immerse myself in music, my heart flew and dipped with the melody. My feet pushed against the ground with the drums. I found the key to being able to dance in a way that fulfilled my heart- to fall back in love with music.


I started a weekly tradition called "Tarab Tuesday" which is a day I sit and listen to a full Tarab song. Tarab Tuesday includes no dancing but a full appreciation of how glorious and complex this music is. I studied rhythms and instruments. I learned about Arab vocalizations (but don't expect me to sing!). I studied the classics, the newest tracks. I read every translation I possibly could. I created binders of information dedicated to a single song. As I learned more about the music I began to learn the patterns and revel in the oddities I discovered.


How does this relate to improvisation? Well, I'm no longer a dancer who uses choreography or improvisation exclusively. There are times for both and it's helpful to be proficient in both. Choreography helps you know what to do next. But I know the music will tell me what to do next if I allow it to. For now, I want the melody to drip from my shoulders like honey. I can't wait to see what we create next.

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